Next week we celebrate Chinese Language week. My school continues to experience much change over the last ten years, particularly in the demographic makeup of the school. Our total Asian group has increased in the last decade from 43% in 2007 to currently 68%. At present our biggest ethnic group is Chinese children who make up 26% of our school role and that number has nearly doubled in 10 years. So particularly for them we celebrate Chinese Language week and this gives us the opportunity to find out more about our children, about their language and to learn something about their culture.
This year Monday 24th of September is the celebration of the Moon Festival. Chinese tradition celebrates the moon festival as the culmination of harvest. This is when the moon is the brightest in the sky. The day is celebrated with family coming together and much preparation is undertaken with the food delicacies prepared. One of these is moon cakes or 月饼. Making moon cakes is to do with the story of Houyi and Chang’e and story goes that moon cakes were one of Chang’e favourite delicacies.
I usually retell the following story of their love.
The story of Houyi and Chang’e.
Legends are like the shifting sands of a desert.
This legend is no different, and there are many versions. But this legend is special because it is retold by Newmarket School.
The Jade Emperor was ruler of Heaven. He had ten naughty sons. One day, they changed themselves into ten suns.
They burnt the earth from high up in the heavens. Unable to stop them being naughty, the Jade Emperor called for Houyi.
He was an archer known for being a straight arrow shooter. The emperor told Houyi to teach his sons a lesson.
Houyi, was a half god and was very strong. He came to Earth and saw its suffering with his own eyes. Everything was burnt and there was not much life, and the people were in pain. Houyi was angry.
So he acted. He took 9 arrows from his bag and aimed at the hot suns. First one fell down, then another. In the end, nine of the Jade Emperor’s sons were dead. Houyi left only one sun alive, to give the earth light and warmth.
When he heard the news the Jade Emperor was furious.
He sent Haouyi and his wife Chang’e from Heaven.
The emperor took away all their powers. They were now forced to live on Earth like ordinary people.
The pair found human life hard. Houyi had a single wish. He wanted to return to heaven with his beloved wife. She did not need to suffer.
Fortunately, Houyi remembered that the immortal Old Mother of the West, who lived on Earth. She had a rare supply of medicine that could let them live forever. The hopeful archer left to find her. He reached her palace and met the Old mother.
When the Old Mother of the West heard the story, she gave Houyi two things. One was the medicine and the other was a warning. She told Houyi to share the medicine with his wife. Drinking half the medicine will let him live. The entire medicine will let him live forever and send him to the heavens. Houyi thanked the old mother.
When Houyi returned home to his wife Chang’e, she was very happy.
While her husband rested from his journey, Chang e could not resist looking at the medicine that he had brought back. She really wanted it and so she drank up all the medicine.
Before long, she felt her body grow sleepy, and she began to float into the sky against her will.
Because the jade emperor had banished her, she could no longer return to heaven. Earth was now beyond her grasp as well. With nowhere else to go, Chang’e drifted to the lonely Moon.
She coughed and there was a little bit of medicine left. It changed into a rabbit.
She spent the rest of her days in the lonely moon palace with the white rabbit. She cried for her husband Houyi.
But he was had to live the rest of his days on Earth as a man. Chang e looked down on Earth and could see her husband with lots of delicious food waiting for her.
Now each full moon you can see Chang’e with her rabbit against a blossom tree calling out to her husband on Earth and hoping he is still waiting with a feast for her return.
This year some of our fundraising leaders asked if they could make moon cakes and I agreed to help. So I thought I would share our recipe with you. Our recipe has the sweet red bean paste filling 红豆沙.
How to make Moon Cakes
- Moon Cake mould, spatula, large bowl, pastry brush, gloves, greaseproof paper, water spray bottle. ( I bought our moulds from Wall Lee on Hobson Street.Wall Lee on Hobson Street.)
- 50 mls of Peanut Oil or vegetable oil.
- 1 tsp of Alkaline water (I cup of water with 1 tsp of baking soda added.)
- 140 grams of golden syrup
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
- 200 grams of flour
- Extra flour for kneading and to stop mixture sticking.
- 500 gram packet of sweet red bean paste 红豆沙
- 1x egg
- Microwave Golden syrup until slightly runny. EG: 30 sec High
- Mix golden syrup with alkaline water and vanilla essence, mix well using a spatula.
- Add the oil and mix well.
- Make a well in 200 grams of flour in a large bowl.
- Pour in Golden syrup mixture and mix well (Mixture should look wet and sticky.
- Cover mixture with plastic glad wrap, leave for 3 hours or more.
- Knead the mixture until it is smooth and shiny.
- Divide the mixture into 4 even pieces.
- Then divide them into 4 smaller balls, about about 25 grams each.
- Roll them into balls and set aside on a piece of greaseproof paper.
- Roll the red bean paste into 35 gram balls ( A little bit thick and sticky).
- Flatten the brown balls so they are nice and thin. As you work the ball the oil is warmed by your hands and you can do this easily.
- Place a red bean ball mixture inside and pull up so that the red bean ball is covered with the flour and golden syrup mixture. Set these aside.
- Continue with the rest of the mixture until you have 16 balls.
- Use a traditional mould, and brush on a little flour.
- Then press the mixture into the mould.
- Use your palm to gently flatten the top.
- Tap the mould against the table and the uncooked moon cake will pop straight out.
- Place on a baking tray.
- When they are all done, spray water over the cakes.
- Bake at 150C for 10 minutes.
- Take out of the oven and cool for 10 minutes.
- Brush on beaten egg and put back into the oven for 15 minutes.
- Take out, cool.
- They can be eaten immediately or put in a tin for a few days.
- I made the pastry skin mixture the night before. The next day it took us nearly 1 hour to craft the moon cakes. If you measure the balls well there should be very little left over.